24 Tone Clocks

24 Tone Clocks

Jenny McLeod



Michael Houstoun (piano, tracks 1-6, 19-24)
Diedre Irons (piano, tracks 7-18)

Produced by Kenneth Young
Recorded by Steve Garden at the Adam Concert Room (NZMS, Victoria University, Wellington)
Design by UnkleFranc
Printing by Studio Q

Featuring two of New Zealand's finest pianists, Jenny McLeod's 24 Tone Clocks is the definitive recording of an extraordinary series of compositions. A lifetime in the making, 24 Tone Clocks is a summation of Jenny's decades-long immersion into Peter Schat's 'tone clock' theory of chromatic harmony.
In the early 80s Peter Schat introduced Jenny to his compositional theories, and she immediately recognised many ideas she had already discovered for herself. "It dawned on me," says Jenny, "that Schat had come up with the basis for a new terminology and framework of thinking with reference to the (equal-tempered 12-note) chromatic system—something that I felt was not only simple, practical and workable, but also fresh and full of imaginative potential for the composer. Later in Amsterdam, Schat showed me the rest of his writings, which were largely in Dutch. I came home and immediately started learning Dutch, so as to translate and understand all of it. These translations were eventually published in English as Peter Schat’s The Tone Clock."
RAT-D066 (November, 2016)




Jenny McLeod

Disc One
01  Tone Clock Piece I  (2:23) 1988
02  Tone Clock Piece II  (2:42) 1988
03  Tone Clock Piece III  (5:09) 1989
04  Tone Clock Piece IV  (2:26) 1989
05  Tone Clock Piece V  (3:46) 1988, a.k.a. Vive Messiaen!
06  Tone Clock Piece VI  (3:11) 1989
07  Tone Clock Piece VII  (3:43) 1989
08  Tone Clock Piece VIII  (4:38) 1995
09  Tone Clock Piece IX  (5:48) 1995
10  Tone Clock Piece X  (3:38) 1995
11  Tone Clock Piece XI  (3:43) 1995
12  Tone Clock Piece XII  (6:18) 2003, a.k.a. Meditation on Psalm 134
      Total playing time: 47:39
Disc Two
13  Tone Clock Piece XIII  (5:00) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack I
14  Tone Clock Piece XIV  (5:14) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack II
15  Tone Clock Piece XV  (5:44) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack III
16  Tone Clock Piece XVI  (5:44) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack IV
17  Tone Clock Piece XVII  (4:04) 2004, a.k.a. For Jack from Jack V
18  Tone Clock Piece XVIII  (5:12) 2007, a.k.a. Landscape Prelude
19  Tone Clock Piece XIX  (5:06) 2011, a.k.a. Moon, Night Birds, Dark Pools
20  Tone Clock Piece XX  (1:32) 2011, a.k.a. Te Kapowai (Dragonfly)
21  Tone Clock Piece XXI  (3:59) 2011, a.k.a. Early Dawn to Sunrise-Earthfall
22  Tone Clock Piece XXII  (4:21) 2011, a.k.a. Haka
23  Tone Clock Piece XXIII  (4:36) 2011, a.k.a. Pyramids, Symmetries, Crevices of Sleep
24  Tone Clock Piece XXIV  (4:43) 2011, a.k.a. Dream Waves (surfing the planet ...)
      Total playing time: 55:19



The Tone Clock


The Tone Clock is a compositional technique developed initially by Dutch composer Peter Schat in the early 1980s. Schat, who was steeped in the serial tradition, noticed the way in which all possible three-note chords, with the exception of the diminished chord, can be transposed (and, in some instances, inverted as well) to generate all twelve chromatic notes once and once only—in geometrical terms, a ‘tessellation’.

Schat realised that in doing so, you create a strong sense of tonality despite the music’s essentially twelve-tone nature, as the inherent ‘intervallic flavour’ of the three-note chord shines through and colours the entire harmony of the piece. In chromatic theory, there are only twelve possible three-note intervallic groups, ranging from a chromatic cluster (two semitones) up to an augmented chord (two major thirds). Schat calls these twelve groups the ‘hours’, and they form the harmonic basis of most tone clock works.

Jenny McLeod’s contribution to tone clock theory was to take Schat’s basic idea and expand it out to encompass all of the 223 possible intervallic configurations of the chromatic system (known as ‘set classes’ or ‘prime forms’ in Allan Forte’s pitch-class set theory). In her monograph Chromatic Maps I & II, she brings a mathematical rigour and remarkable taxonomization to bear on the project, revealing a vast array of hidden properties of the chromatic system. She also provides a spectacular ‘Grand Unified Theory’ of almost all equal-tempered tonal and chromatic approaches, taking in conventional Western tonality, Messiaen’s modes of limited transposition, Webern’s ‘serial derivation’ and Boulez’s frequency multiplication.

It was in her Tone Clock Pieces, however, that she worked out the intricacies of tone clock theory in practice. While all twelve chromatic pitches are heard often, the particular intervallic qualities of the hours—sometimes open and quartal, sometimes close and clustered, often floating and fluid—give each Tone Clock Piece a distinct ‘aura’ or ‘perfume’. Furthermore, the inherent symmetries in tone clock theory imbue these pieces with a refractive brilliance and a shimmering haze of resonance.

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